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Automation in Construction 17 (2008) 450 – 458 www.elsevier.com/locate/autcon Exploring the links between task-level

Automation in Construction 17 (2008) 450 458

Automation in Construction 17 (2008) 450 – 458 www.elsevier.com/locate/autcon Exploring the links between task-level

www.elsevier.com/locate/autcon

Exploring the links between task-level automation usage and project satisfaction

Li-Ren Yang

Department of Business Administration, Tamkang University, Tamsui, Taipei, 251, Taiwan

Accepted 7 August 2007

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify project satisfaction-leveraging tasks and common characteristics associated with these critical tasks. To address the primary aim, a survey was conducted to determine correlations between task-level automation adoption and project satisfaction from the perspectives of various types of project stakeholders. Identification of project satisfaction-leveraging tasks is employed as a way to gai n greater understanding of the connections. Also, this study explores the links between automation utilization and project satisfaction in further detail. Task characteristics are investigated as an additional basis for gaining deeper insights into how automation technology usage may impact project satisfaction. A second survey was used to collect needed data from industry professionals. The analyses suggest that degrees of automation used in executing the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks may be positively related to project stakeholder satisfaction. The results also indic ate that information and data intensive and management-related characteristics may be associated with overall project stakeholder satisfaction. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Automation; Technology; Project; Stakeholder satisfaction; Task

1. Introduction

Many studies have shown that the construction industry is reluctant to apply new technologies and employs lower levels of technology than other industries. A national-wide survey conducted by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation indicated that the design and construction industry spends only 0.5% of its total revenues on research and development [1]. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend towards increased technology utilization levels on Architect/ Engineering/Construction (A/E/C) capital facility projects. According to a 1995 study, four drivers for adoption of new technologies were identified: 1) competitive advantage, 2) external requirements, 3) priority problems avoid losses from reduced performance, and 4) technological opportunity to improve operations [2] . Some construction firms adopt automation in the attempt to reduce the cost and schedule of a project. These companies are also examining their operations

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for ways to improve stakeholder satisfaction. However, since the benefits of innovation can be rather intangible, this has slowed or prevented the adoption of new automation technol- ogy. Accordingly the impact of automation on project performance has been one of the major issues for both industry and academic fields. In order to understand the benefits, there is a need for quantification of the benefits derived from automation application. Simmons [3] suggested that methods used to evaluate the impact of technology on performance measures may be the problem in connecting investment in technology to improvements in business performance. Research on automation utilization at the task level and its associations with project success should offer tangible evidence of advantages from using technologies. While many studies have promoted technology as a means to enhance project performance [4 7] , very few published empirical studies in construction have explored the direct effects of automation on project performance from the perspectives of various types of stakeholders. None of the previous research attempts to explain the links between automation usage and project performance. In addition, there has been no comprehensive study on the impacts of automation

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usage on overall project stakeholder satisfaction. Empirical evidence that supports the link between automation usage at the task level and project stakeholder satisfaction is lacking. Thus, developing such support will illustrate the benefits of automation adoption. This study attempts to fill this void of empirical evidence by identifying project satisfaction-leverag- ing tasks and common characteristics associated with these critical tasks. This paper addresses associations between task- level automation technology usage and project success. The links between automation utilization and project satisfaction are explored in detail. For the purposes of this research, automation is defined as the use of an electronic or mechanized tool by a human being to manipulate data or produce a product [8] . The purpose of this research is three-fold. The first objective of this study was to identify project clusters formed on the basis of the perceptions of stakeholder satisfaction. The second objective was to determine project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. The third objective was to investigate the characteristics associated with these project satisf action-leveraging tasks to gain deeper insights into how automation usage may impact project success. The analyses of automation usage and relationships with project satisfaction are based on an industry-wide survey per- formed between October 2004 and June 2005. A data collection tool was developed to assess automation use levels in the Taiwanese industry. A total of 98 project responses were collected through personal interviews. Automation usage metrics are based on 61 common project tasks. In order to measure the degree of automation used on projects and its impacts on project outcomes, the data collection tool was used on all types of projects in the building, industrial, and infrastructure sectors. The data analyzed in this study are project-specific, meaning the data are repre- sentative of the levels of automation used on projects. In addition, the analyses of characterization of the project satisfaction- leveraging tasks are based on a second survey conducted between February 2006 and February 2007. The data collection effort involved characterization of the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. This paper explains the links between automation utilization and project success. Automation usage metrics analyzed include those at the task level. Project success parameter analyzed is project stakeholder satisfaction.

2. Literature review

A considerable body of research has been conducted on the adoption and use of technology in the A/E/C industry. Much of the project/construction management literature relevant to this research is associated with the adoption of technology, factors influencing the implementation of technology, and the expected benefits associated with the use of technology. Concerning technology usage, O'Connor et al. [9] investigated the extent to which technologies are being used in executing projects in the construction industry. Webb et al. [10] explored the potential of 4D CAD as a tool for construction management. Abduh and Skibniewski [11] presented an assessment model to measure the utility of Electronic Networking Technologies (ENT) services in construction project activities. Tse and Choy [12] carried out an in-depth interview for studying the scope of use of IT in

Hong Kong's construction industry. Peansupap and Walker [13] addressed the critical issue of how best to adopt and diffuse information and communication technology (ICT) into organizations. While the above authors promoted the adoption of technol- ogy, other researchers have also been active in identifying the factors influencing the adoption of technology. Goodrum and Gangwar [14] examined the relationship between changes in equipment technology and changes in construction wages with the help of five factors of equipment technology change: control, energy, ergonomics, functionality and information processing. Mitropoulos and Tatum [15] argued that uncertain competitive advantage from using new technologies and lack of information regarding technologies and benefits may be the reasons for reluctance to adopt technology. There has been also much work conducted on the benefits from technology in the construction industry. Earlier studies supported the notion that technology adoption is beneficial. Several researchers have investigated the impacts of different technology on project performance. Some of the project performance indicators they examined include cost, schedule, and safety success, which are of course major concerns

to project stakeholders. Fergusson [16] investigated the relation-

ships between facility integration and quality. Back and Bell [17]

identified the impacts of use of electronic data interchange (EDI)

in bulk materials management. Griffis et al. [18] studied the

impacts of using 3-D computer models on cost, schedule

duration, and rework metrics. Back et al. [19] undertook a study

to determine the impact of information management on project

schedule and cost. Tan [20] studied the impact and linkage of information technology and competitive advantage. Additionally, Hampson and Tatum [4] stated that technology strategy can positively influence competitive performance. Johnson and Clayton [5] contended that information technology can improve productivity of teams and management procedures. Back and Moreau [6] suggested that improving internal information exchange and integrating project-based information across organizational boundaries may result in project cost and schedule reductions. Thomas et al. [7] evaluated the impacts of design/information technologies by connecting their use to project performance in terms of cost growth, schedule growth, and safety success. Whyte et al. [21] explored processes by which emerging technologies can be introduced into construc- tion organizations. Goodrum and Haas [22] investigated the impact of different types of equipment technologies on con-

struction productivity. De Lapp et al. [23] examined the impacts

of computed aided design (CAD) on design realization. Sexton

and Barrett [24] performed in-depth case study to understand the role of technology transfer in innovation within small con- struction firms. Lee et al. [25] examined the relative impacts of selected practices on project cost and schedule. Above prior studies indicated that technology is playing an important enabling role in construction. While the diverse benefits of technology have received substantial attention, the number of studies dealing with technology's impact on the performance in

terms of stakeholder satisfaction is rather scarce. A review of the literature suggests that the use of technology as

a means to enhance project performance has been widely

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supported. Generally, many researchers have suggested that technology provides significant benefits to capital facility projects. The literature review provides background for devel- oping an understanding of the issues related to the adoption and use of technology, factors influencing the adoption of technology, and the benefits to be derived from technology. Issues discussed include the use of technologies for specific project tasks, technology strategy, information technology, and the application of integration. Project performance measurements commonly used in the previous studies include cost, schedule, degree of attainment, return on investment, and safety. The literature review suggests that most performance measurements currently being used are quantitative or hard measures of cost and schedule. Soft measures such as leadership, employee satisfaction, and team- work are now being measured using qualitative or subjective measurement techniques [26]. In light of the previous research, it is evident that additional work is justified. While research has centered on the project performance in terms of cost and schedule success, relatively less has approached the associations between automation utilization and overall project satisfaction from the perspectives of various types of stakeholders. Also, few articles are known about the explanation of the links between automation utilization and project success. Additionally, most studies in construction seeking to provide insights into technology usage have not developed specific measures for automation implemen- tation and stakeholder satisfaction levels. In summary, there has been much research conducted on the use of technology and the benefits derived from technology application, although there is little work with quantifiable information on how automation affects overall project stake- holder satisfaction. Additionally, few studies have empirically tested the relationships between technology usage at the task level and project performance in terms of stakeholder satisfaction. Thus, it will be useful to develop quantitative measures of automation utilization and stakeholder satisfaction. Also, there is a need for more comprehensive empirical evi- dence that evaluates the benefits associated with automation and, more specifically, its impact on project performance in terms of stakeholder satisfaction. This research adds to the literature in two valuable ways. First, it provides evidence of performance implications of automation implementation at the task level. Second, it offers important results on the identification of project satisfaction-leveraging tasks and their common characteristics from the perspectives of major stakeholders involved in projects, including the Owner, Architect/Engineering (A/E), and General Contractor (GC) groups. Research on automation utilization at the task level should provide construction firms with information on whether to adopt automation technologies. In addition, the assessment of task characteristics that can leverage the benefits of automation should also be beneficial. To address this gap in the literature, the following research hypotheses were developed:

Levels of automation utilization for certain tasks are positively related to projects' levels of stakeholder satisfaction

Task characteristics can explain the links between automa- tion utilization and project stakeholder satisfaction.

3. Determining project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

3.1. Data collection tool

The first phase of research included identifying project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. A survey instrument was used to measure the degree of automation usage on capital facility projects and its associations with project outcomes. The data collection toll was developed based on variables used in pre- vious studies and understanding gained from interviews conducted with executives in the construction industry. The survey was composed of two sections: project/company information and degree of automation use for tasks. The first section of the survey obtains information concerning the project, project type, and final performance of the project in terms of stakeholder satisfaction. The second section assesses level of automation used in executing the project. For the purpose of this study, a project's life cycle is structured in five phases: Front End (which includes scoping, feasibility, and preliminary design activities), Design, Procurement, Construction Management, and Construction Execution [9]. To provide a basis for assessing automation usage, it is necessary to determine the common tasks performed on projects. Based on brainstorming and the litera- ture search [9,27] , a total of 61 common project tasks were developed. Study participants were first asked to identify a recent project that they were familiar with for assessment. For the subject project, the survey then asks participants to assess the degree of automation used in executing each task for that project.

3.2. Sample selection and data collection

An industry-wide survey of automation use levels on capital facility projects was conducted in Taiwan between October 2004 and June 2005. A data collection tool was developed to collect project-based data. A total of 98 project responses were collected through personal interviews. Individuals interested in participating in the study were identified by a search from various industry associations. In order to obtain a truly repre- sentative sample, not only was the geographic mix of projects intentionally diverse, but a diverse mix of participation was sought with respect to sector of industry. Additionally, a specified mix of project size was targeted in order to obtain a representative sample of the industry. More than 100 projects were investigated and some were not included in the analysis because they contained insufficient information. In addition, the projects were examined to ensure that no duplicate project information was collected. Ultimately, 98 survey responses were used in the analysis.

3.3. Measurement: automation usage metrics

In assessing the degree of automation used in executing each task, respondents could choose from four levels [9,27,28] :

Level 1, where no electronic or mechanized tools are used. Execution of task is labor in tensive and involves little mechanization. Level 2, where there are a few uncommon electronic or mechanized tools involved but human workers

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dominate the process. Execution of task involves some mechanization. Level 3, where there are several specialized electronic or mechanized tools involved. Execution of task involves more mechanization. Level 4, where fully- or nearly fully-automated sys tems dominate execution of the task. Execution of task involves mechanization linked with external information. Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 are associated respectively with the lowest, medium low, medium high, and highest levels of automation utilization in executing tasks. The characteristics of four levels provide quantitative measures of automation usage for each task. In addition, Not Applicable and Don't Know responses were also available for each item. Automation index was developed to measure the use of automation technologies for common project tasks across the industry. For any given task, the level of automation employed is the task score. The sum of these scores was then divided by the total number of responses to yield the automation index for that task. The automation index for each task is computed as follows:

AI ¼ ð X TS = NTS Þ ;

ð1 Þ

where AI is the Automation Index, TS is the task score, and NTS is the number of responses with 1, 2, 3, or 4.

3.4. Measurement: project satisfaction metrics

The surveyed participants are at the project level. All major stakeholders (including the Owner, Architect/Engineering, and General Contractor) involved in the subject project were interviewed to evaluate overall project satisfaction. In other words, overall project satisfaction was measured from the perspectives of the Owner, A/E, and GC groups. The variables of interest were assessed through the respondents' perceptual evaluations. Items regarding project satisfaction used a five- point scale to determine the respondents' perception of satis- faction, where 1 represented strongly dissatisfy, 2 represented inclined to dissatisfy, 3 represented neither satisfy nor dissatisfy, 4 represented inclined to satisfy, and 5 represented strongly satisfy. In addition, Not Applicable and Don't Know res- ponses were also available.

3.5. Dealing with incomplete data, reliability and validity

In order to determine if the response data associated with a particular project were adequate to be representative, a minimum response rate of 70% of all tasks associated with a project was established as the criterion for acceptance. If a particular project did not meet the 70% rate criterion, then it was not included in the analysis. This approach he lped ensure that sufficient information was obtained about the entire project in order to be truly representative of the actual project. Cronbach's coefficient ( α ) was computed to test the reliability and internal consistency of the responses. For the items assessed in this research, the values α are found to be more than 0.90 with an average value of 0.98, which indicate a high degree of internal consistency in the responses. Addition-

ally, two main types of validity, content and construct validity, were tested. The content validity of the survey used in this study was tested through a literature review and interviews with practi- tioners. In other words, the survey items were based on previous studies and discussions with these construction executives. The industry interviews encompassed a number of executives from the Owner, A/E, and GC groups. The refined assessment items were included in the final survey. Finally, copies of a draft survey were sent to several industry professions to pre-test for the clarity of questions. Their insights were also incorporated into the final version of the survey. The construct validity was tested by factor analysis. Factors were extracted using varimax rotation. As suggested by Hair et al. [29] , an item is considered to load on a given factor if the factor loading from the rotated factor pattern is 0.40 or more for that factor. The factor loadings for the items used in the study are more than 0.40 with an average value of 0.71.

4. Characterizing project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

4.1. Survey instrument and process

Once project satisfaction-leveraging tasks were identified, steps were attempted to better understand how automation utilization affects project success. Phase 2 of the research entailed explaining the links between automation utilization and project satisfaction. The value of task characteristics in further explaining the links was investigated. Task characteristics were used to characterize the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. Task characteristic analysis of these critical tasks can reveal features that leverage project performance. This approach pro- vides deeper insights into how automation usage impacts project success. The data collection effort involved characterization of the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks via task characteristics. A second data collection tool was used to assess how strongly certain characteristics are related to a given task. Based on brainstorming and the literature review [30] , six categories of task characteristics were developed to classify tasks by their attributes and as a way to study differences between tasks relative to automation usage: 1) nature of task procedures, 2) time/space/cost factors, 3) information and data aspects, 4) task management, 5) nature of task product, and 6) nature of human resource. For each subject task, the survey asks participants to assess the extent to which individual characteristic apply to that task. This survey offers respondents five optional responses: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Don't Know. The survey of characteristic applicability was conducted between February 2006 and February 2007.

4.2. Dealing with incomplete data, reliability and validity

In order to determine if the response data associated with a particular task were adequate to be representative, a minimum response rate of 70% of all characteristics associated with a task

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Table 1 Information regarding respondents to survey of characteristic applicability

Characteristic

Classes

N

Title Title Title Title Title Title Expertise Expertise Expertise Expertise Expertise Expertise Years of experience Years of experience Years of experience Group involvement Group involvement Industry sector involvement Industry sector involvement Industry sector involvement

President

06

Vice president

05

Project manager

09

Design manager

08

Project engineer

19

Project planner

07

Need analysis

09

Budget estimate

09

Scheduling

09

Structure design

09

Electrical design

09

Project management

09

510

06

1120

28

2130

20

Owner

27

A/E

27

Building

22

Industrial

16

Infrastructure

16

was established as the criterion for acceptance. If responses associated with a particular task did not meet the 70% rate criterion, then they were not used in the analysis. This approach helped ensure that sufficient knowledge was obtained about the task. In the process of determining the survey items, it is crucial to ensure the validity of their content, which is an important measure of a survey instrument's accuracy. A content validity was tested through a theoretical review and interviews with industry practitioners. Based on previous studies and discus- sions with a number of construction experts, the survey items were accepted as possessing content validity. The draft version of the data collection instrument was then sent to several construction professionals to pre-test for the clarity of questions. Their insights were incorporated into the final version of the survey. Based on the personal interviews conducted prior to the survey, the targeted respondents were identified as the senior individuals who were responsible for the project tasks. Potential respondents to the survey were identified by these practitioners. The respondents included presidents, vice presidents, design managers, project managers, project engineers, and project planners. A specified mix of expertise, group involvement, and industry sector participation was targeted in order to acquire a comprehensive knowledge from different perspectives. The data were collected from 54 industry professionals through personal interviews. These professionals averaged 18 years of experience. Detailed information regarding the respondents is presented in Table 1 .

4.3. Analysis of responses

For any given characteristic, the assessed degree to which a task relates to that characteristic was established as the Characteristic Score. In order to perform quantitative analysis,

responses were converted to Characteristic Scores as follows:

Strongly Agree = 4, Agree = 3, Neutral = 2, and Disagree = 1. The Characteristic Applicability Index was computed as follows:

CAI ¼ ð X CS = NR Þ ;

ð 2 Þ

where CAI is the Characteristic Applicability Index, CS is the Characteristic Score for a task, and NR is the number of responses with Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, or Disagree. The mean Characteristic Applicability Index was then calculated to identify the characteristics with high applicability to the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. A Characteristic Applicability Index score of zero indicates not applicable. A value of 3.00 or greater indicates highly applicable (an index value of 3.00 is associated with Agree response). If a characteristic has high applicability to the project satisfaction- leveraging tasks, it indicates that this characteristic may explain project satisfaction-leveraging. The mean Characteristic Appli- cability Index was calculated as follows:

MAI ¼ ð X CAI = NST Þ ;

ð 3 Þ

where MAI is the Mean Applicability Index, CAI is the Characteristic Applicability Index value for a satisfaction- leveraging task, and NST is the total number of satisfaction- leveraging tasks assessed.

5. Results and analysis

5.1. Identification of project clusters with the same perceptions of stakeholder satisfaction

Cluster analysis was used in an exploratory mode to develop an objective classification of projects. This research was exploratory; therefore, different sets of clusters consisting of two, three, four, and five groups were examined. In order to identify homogeneous projects clusters with the same kinds of perceptions of stakeholder satisfaction, a K-means cluster analysis was performed on the basis of the three dimensions of satisfaction (Owner, A/E, and GC satisfaction). To validate the results of the cluster analysis, a discriminant analysis was conducted. The discriminant analysis presented in Table 2 classified 98.9% of the projects as the cluster analysis did, indicating extremely good differentiation and a correct classification. These results suggest that the two clusters are distinctive.

Table 2

Discriminant analysis

Number/percentage

Group

Predicted group

Total

 

membership

1

2

Number

1

70

1

71

2

0

18

18

Percentage

1

98.6

1.4

100.0

2

0.0

100.0

100.0

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Table 3 Cluster means of discriminating variables

Variable

Projects

Projects

t -statistic

p-value

with

with

satisfaction

dis-

 

satisfaction

 
 

N

Mean

N

Mean

Owner satisfaction

76

3.67

19

2.21

10.035

0.000

A/E satisfaction

74

3.58

18

2.28

08.113

0.000

GC satisfaction

74

3.55

19

2.21

09.513

0.000

The cluster analysis has identified two clusters, with the cluster mean values of discriminating variables given in Table 3 . In addition, independent-samples t tests were undertaken to assess the internal validity of the cluster results. The results of the t tests show that statistically significant differences do exist between the two clusters. The independent-samples t tests shown in Table 3 confirm that the three variables of Owner satisfaction, A/E satisfaction, and GC satisfaction do signifi- cantly differentiate across the two clusters. Combining these results with those of the discriminant analyses, the analysis ended with a two-cluster solution. The study reveals two project satisfaction segments, including high project satisfaction cluster (Cluster 1) and low project satisfaction cluster (Cluster 2). The levels of project satisfaction by stakeholder type are shown in Table 3 . The analyses indicate that Cluster 1 has, on average, higher levels of stakeholder satisfaction than Cluster 2 for all satisfaction metrics analyzed. In most cases, there are only slight differences in perception of satisfaction among the project stakeholders. Finally, an independent-samples t test was conducted to determine whether the data provide evidence for significant differences in performance outcomes being associ- ated with differences in automation usage for each task. This discussion is presented in the subsequent section.

5.2. Identification of project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

The tasks with a significant difference in automation usage between projects with stakeholder satisfaction and dissatisfac- tion are defined as project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. Table 4 presents the comparisons of task-level automation usage between projects with stakeholder satisfaction and dissatisfac- tion. The test results indicate that levels of automation usage for these tasks may be positively associated with projects' levels of stakeholder satisfaction.

Table 4 t -Test for project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

Table 5 Levels of automation usage for project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

Task

N

Mean Standard deviation

Conduct need analysis for a new facility 62

2.21

1.01

Develop budget estimate Prepare milestone schedule Design structure systems Design electrical systems Track design progress

85

2.38

1.04

86

2.42

1.06

77

2.48

0.91

72

2.46

0.84

78

2.03

0.88

Table 5 shows the levels of automation usage for the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. Among the 6 critical tasks, automation technology levels appear highest for design

structure systems and design electrical systems. Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is commonly used to create two- dimensional (2-D) drawings or three-dimensional (3-D) models

in the industry. CAD software can be used to generate precision

drawings or technical illustrations and refine the design at low

cost. Many organizations adopt CAD software in these design tasks. Advancements in design tasks may tend to precede the other tasks because the limited scope aspect of design should make related advancements more easily achievable. Also, information- and data-intensive tasks appear to be more easily

automated than other task types. The lowest levels of automation utilization are associated with track design progress.Data management software may be a solution that automates the task.

A data management tool provides a means to monitor and track

design progress. It may also help design teams organize design data. Track design progressmay lag in technology usage as a result of inadequate automation devices driven by lack of R&D investment. In addition, this task lags in automation usage perhaps due to its frequent communication characteristic for which automation systems are difficult to accomplish. Prepare milestone schedule and develop budget estimate are associated with the greatest overall variability in level of automation technology employed. While many scheduling and cost estimating software systems exist, many of these are either expensive or complex relative to user skills. Levels of auto- mation utilization are the most uniform for design electrical systems. Many organizations are making significant techno- logical advances in the task. Preproject planning is the project phase encompassing all the tasks between project initial to detailed design [31] . Prior studies have shown the importance of preproject planning on projects and its influence on project performance [32 35] .

Task

Projects with stakeholder satisfaction

Projects with stakeholder dissatisfaction

N

Mean Standard deviation N

Mean Standard deviation

Mean difference t -statistic Significance

Conduct need analysis for a new facility 45

2.31

1.02

16

1.94

1.12

0.37

1.223

0.056

Develop budget estimate

67

2.45

0.99

18

2.11

1.08

0.34

1.258

0.053

Prepare milestone schedule

67

2.49

1.05

19

2.16

1.07

0.33

1.222

0.056

Design structure systems

58

2.53

0.92

18

2.28

0.89

0.25

1.039

0.076

Design electrical systems

54

2.50

0.86

17

2.29

0.77

0.21

0.878

0.096

Track design progress

60

2.07

0.88

18

1.89

0.90

0.18

0.748

0.098

456

L.-R. Yang / Automation in Construction 17 (2008) 450 458

Table 6 High applicability characteristics for project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

Category

Task characteristics

Mean

 

applicability

index value

Information and data

Task involves uncertainty or probabilistic information Historical data from previous projects are required for execution Data accuracy is crucial to successful task performance Many different types of organizations are involved Responsible individual must communicate frequently with others Task involves iterations and revisions

3.60

Information and data

3.11

Information and data

3.56

Management

3.17

Management

3.58

Work procedure

3.30

Previous research indicated that greater project planning efforts may contribute to project performance in terms of cost, schedule, and stakeholder success. The project satisfaction- leveraging tasks identified in this study are associated with preproject planning process, during which success in the following phases is highly dependent on the level of effort expended. This may be a reason why employing automation technology in these leveraging tasks may be associated with project stakeholder satisfaction.

5.3. Explaining the links between automation utilization and project stakeholder satisfaction

The preliminary results from this research indicate that a total of 6 tasks are associated with project satisfaction-leveraging

tasks. These project satisfaction-leveraging tasks are associated with the Front End and Design phases. In order to identify characteristics associated with the project satisfaction-leverag- ing tasks, these critical tasks were analyzed using task charac- teristics. The data collection effort involved characterization of these identified tasks. Task characteristics that may explain project satisfaction-leveraging were identified to further explain the links between automation utilization and project satisfac- tion. Characteristic data associated with these tasks were used to help identify common characteristic trends for project satisfac- tion-leveraging tasks. The critical tasks identified include: 1) conduct need analysis for a new facility, 2) develop budget estimate, 3) prepare milestone schedule, 4) design structure systems, 5) design electrical systems, and 6) track design progress. The first three are associated with the Front End phase and the last three pertain to the Design phase. Task characteristic analysis of these critical tasks reveals features common to a specific task group. Comparing to the Design tasks, the critical tasks associated with the Front End phase involves uncertainty or probabilistic information. On the other hand, the critical design tasks require frequent communication between individuals and, compared to the Front End tasks, involve more different types of organiza- tions. Additionally, data accuracy is crucial to successful task performance for these critical Design tasks. The complete information of all task characteristics is provided in Tables 6 and 7 . Table 6 presents high applicability characteristics for the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. Table 7 presents low applicability characteristics for these tasks. These tables show the overall image of how the selected characteristics perform. Six characteristics that may explain

Table 7 Low applicability characteristics for project satisfaction-leveraging tasks

Category

Task characteristics

Mean applicability index value

Human resource Human resource Human resource WF product WF product WF product Time/space/cost Time/space/cost Time/space/cost Time/space/cost Time/space/cost Time/space/cost Information and data Information and data Information and data Information and data Management Management Management Work procedure Work procedure Work procedure Work procedure Work procedure Work procedure

Many individuals are involved to perform task Task involves many individuals with different skills and specialties Users, worker's or operator's experience is critical to performance Performance of many subsequent tasks relies heavily on this task Task product is physically large and bulky Errors are difficult to fix or require a large amount of resources to fix Task is a critical path activity in most cases Task requires spatial coordination Task involves relatively high uncertainty in cost, schedule, quality, or safety Task management operates in close proximity to workers Task involves environmental hazard Task is costly to execute Task relies on industry technical standards Task data are in many different formats Security of related data is very important Task involves significant amount of data updating A specialty organization is involved in most cases Primary performance driver of the task is quality, safety, cost, or schedule Task involves high probability of change Task is error prone Task procedures are driven by regulations Task involves repetitive activity Some task resources are often idle Task procedures are very complex Task relies on or requires physical output products of many previous task

2.42

2.69

2.75

2.52

2.44

2.72

1.75

2.69

2.49

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leveraging were identified in the analysis. These characteristics show a strong association w ith the project satisfaction- leveraging tasks. Most of the characteristics that may explain leveraging fall in the following two categories: 1) information and data and 2) management. This indicates that information/ data-intensive and management-related characteristics may be associated with project stakeholder satisfaction. Characteristics that may explain project satisfaction-leverag- ing were identified in order to explore project stakeholder satisfaction determinants. The analyses suggest that tasks in- volving iterations, revisions, and many different types of orga- nizations may deserve the execution with high automation approaches. Tasks that require frequent communication between individuals may be associated with project stakeholder satisfac- tion. In addition, degrees of automation used in executing the tasks that involve uncertainty or probabilistic information may be positively related to the stakeholder satisfaction of a project. The priority for automation implementation may also pertain to the tasks for which data accuracy is critical to performance and historical data from previous projects are required for execution. One of the low applicability characteristics ( Primary performance driver of the task is cost, schedule, quality, or safety ) was further analyzed to explain the links between automation utilization and proj ect satisfaction. Regarding primary performance driver of the satisfactio n-leveraging tasks, the applicability index values for cost, schedule, quality, and safety are 1.50, 2.25, 2.25, and 1.00 respectively (with a mean of 1.75). The relatively high levels of applicability are associated with schedule and quality. The analyses suggest that primary performance driver of the leveraging tasks may be more closely associated with schedule and quality than are cost and safety.

6. Conclusions and recommendations

The lack of information regarding automation benefits along with uncertain competitive advantage from new technology have resulted in industry reluctance to implement new automation technologies. Thus, a study of the relationship between automation utilization and project stakeholder satis- faction is necessary. The purpose of this study was to identify project satisfaction-leveraging tasks and common characteris- tics associated with these critical tasks. Metrics were developed to determine automation usage at the task level and perceived stakeholder satisfaction. The projects are examined by cluster- ing them on the basis of differences in perceptions of the proposed satisfaction dimensions. In other words, cluster analysis was used as a means to group similar properties on the basis of stakeholder satisfaction. Independent-samples t tests were undertaken to assess the internal validity of the cluster results. Combining these results with those of the discriminant analyses, a two-cluster solution was identified. The study reveals two project satisfaction segments, including high project satisfaction cluster and low project satisfaction cluster. Furthermore, hypothesis testing was performed to identify relationships between task-level automation utilization and project satisfaction. For each of the tasks, levels of automation

usage were analyzed to identify project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. The tasks with a significant difference in automation usage between projects with stakeholder satisfaction and dissatisfaction are associated with project satisfaction-leverag- ing tasks. In other words, the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks have significant differences in automation usage for projects with stakeholder satisfaction as opposed to projects with stakeholder dissatisfaction. These project satisfaction- leveraging tasks are associated with the FrontEnd and Design phases. The critical tasks identified in this study include: 1) conduct need analysis for a new facility, 2) develop budget estimate, 3) prepare milestone schedule, 4) design structure systems, 5) design electrical systems, and 6) track design progress. This paper also explores the links between project satisfaction and automation utilization in detail. The technique used for analyzing the associations is analysis of task characteristics. The project satisfaction-leveraging tasks were further analyzed using characteristic analysis to explain the links between automation utilization and project success. In other words, task characteristics were used to better understand project satisfaction-leveraging tasks through analysis of their attributes. In summary, task characteristics analyses of project satisfaction-leveraging tasks are employed as a way to gain greater understanding of the connection between automation usage and project satisfaction. The characteristic analysis reveals attributes common to the project satisfaction-leveraging tasks. These analyses suggest that data/information-intensive and management-related task characteristics may be associated with project stakeholder satisfaction. Degrees of automation used in executing the tasks that require frequent personnel communications may be positively related to the stakeholder satisfaction of a project. Consideration should be also given to employing higher levels of automation usage for the tasks that involve many different types of organizations. Furthermore, the priority for automation implementation may also pertain to the tasks for which data accuracy is critical to performance and historical data from previous projects are required for execution. In addition, tasks that involve iterations, revisions, uncertainty, or probabilistic information may deserve the high automation approaches. The research provides empirical evidence that supports the expectation of gaining significant benefits with higher levels of automation implementation. This paper reports on the findings of empirical research on the adoption of automation technology at the task level, identifies the benefit of adopting automation technology, and provides recommendations for the implemen- tation of automation technology on projects. The results of this study indicate that automation is critical to assist in the exe- cution of project tasks and may contribute significantly to project performance in terms of stakeholder satisfaction. Findings from this study provide direction for the decision making of automation investment and are helpful to managers in deciding whether to apply automation to tasks with certain characteristics on capital facility projects. One limitation of the research is that qualitative factors are excluded from the analysis. The qualitative issues may be

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significant in helping explain the associations between automation utilization and project performance. In spite of the limitation of acquisition of qualitative information, character- istic applicability analysis is a logical approach for exploring the links. However, it would be worthwhile to examine the quali- tative factors in future studies.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the anonymous referees for their extremely helpful comments on this paper. The work described in this article was supported by grant from the National Science Council of Taiwan (93-2211-E-032-024 and

94-2211-E-032-021).

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